MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “Nope” stars Daniel Kaluuya (Get Out, Black Panther), Keke Palmer (Hustlers, Akeelah and the Bee), Brandon Perea (The OA [TV series], Dance Camp), Michael Wincott (Basquiat, Talk Radio), Steven Yeun (Minari, Okja), Wrenn Schmidt (For All Mankind [TV series], I Saw the Light), and Keith David (The Princess and the Frog, They Live). It is written and directed by Jordan Peele (Us, Get Out).
Owners of a horse ranch defend themselves from an unidentified flying object that poses as a cloud.
This has to be one of the most unique films I have seen this year. Granted, 2022 also gifted us “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” but still. Jordan Peele is back in the directors chair to give us a moviegoing experience that only he knows how to: with twists, unsettling moments, humor, and Daniel Kaluuya.
“Nope” is a science fiction tale about UFOs and how they want to cause havoc to an unsuspecting horse ranch. However, nothing is at all what it appears to be, and that’s including the foreboding space craft hiding away in a cloud during the day (which, I must say, is quite terrifying). Our lead heroes are a brother (Kaluuya) and sister (Palmer) who are horse ranglers for television and movie sets, with a business that is slowly dying given how the face of their company – their father (David) – was suddenly killed by something that fell from the sky. Weave this storyline through a few plot lines involving a pompous director-of-photography (Wincott), tech geek (Perea), and a savage monkey that murdered his sitcom family in the 90’s (oh yes), and you’ve got a film worth thinking about.
The greatest attribute to this feature (and Peele as a writer/director) is that you never know what to expect. Sure, there are a few moments we hang on that are clearly setting something up for a pay-off later, but all-in-all “Nope” unfolds in a slow, peculiar manner. What’s great is how the trailers seem to give you all you need to know, only for you to realize how little context you truly received when watching the final product. I didn’t know what to think, but man was I engaged.
Though I have yet to see “Us,” I believe that this is Peele’s most visually striking work to date. The western landscapes, show business backdrops, and splashes of color that are sprinkeled across dusty vistas (the blow-up tube men and use of blood) are amazing. I loved the look of this film, with the cinematography and aesthetic design firing on all cylinders. Our collective of characters – from the way they dress to the way they speak – fits into this mold that Peele has created nicely, with each individual having a distinct personality to them that doesn’t necessarily need backstory to clue you in on who they are. Certain characters’ dialogue, while natural and modern, doesn’t really appeal to me personally, but it fits the overarching tone.
Performance-wise, everyone knocks it out of the park. Kaluuya plays it reserved, while Keke Palmer (whom I haven’t seen perform in something new for so long) is bold. She was great in this and created a wonderful foil to Kaluuya overall. Filling the rest of the roster are Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott, and Steven Yeun; all of whom sell the scenes they’re in. Yeun could’ve had more material, in my opinion, though everyone did a solid job. From a technical standpoint, Peele and his team deliver. Diving into the story, that’s where things can get a bit tricky.
“Nope” is an oddball. There are quite a few themes strung throughout the narrative, but the main one (as told by Peele himself) takes a bit more investigating to discover. Since this one is still in theaters, I will let you all make your own conclusions on it, though I will say that the meaning behind the film never came to me until I was explained it. I can be rather clueless when it comes to the bottom-line (when I see a movie, my mind is shut off most of the time), however, in discussing this with my co-workers at the movie theater, it seemed that the message was also murky to them. This isn’t to say that what Peele was striving to achieve was not conveyed; after hearing the point behind the story, it all clicked. Does that make it high-concept art? In a way, yes.
Most of my criticism of “Nope” comes from preference more than anything. The moments with the sitcom monkey, while interesting, didn’t add much to my experience. And horror as a genre isn’t my cup of tea. BUT, Peele pulled off a unique, original story that kept me guessing. The performances crush, the cinematography and design is wonderful, and everything culminates to a satisfying conclusion. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it (after hearing almost nothing about it), and recommend others to give it a shot. FINAL SCORE: 87%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer:
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